An English Governess in the Great War: The Secret Brussels Diary of Mary Thorp

ISBN : 9780190276706

Tammy M. Proctor
288 ページ
156 x 235 mm

An Englishwoman living in World War I Brussels started a secret diary in September 1916. The diary, which survived the war and whose author remained anonymous, ended up in a Belgian archive. This book brings to light both the diary and the story of the woman who wrote it: a middle-aged English governess working for a Belgian-Russian family in German-occupied Brussels. Mary Thorp (1864 -1945) grew up in London and in Bruges. Like many educated young women of impoverished middle-class backgrounds, she worked as a governess. Neither a servant nor a member of the upper classes that employed her, she harbored a sturdy middle-class outlook stressing self-reliance and responsibility for others - the very attitude that underlay societies' resilience in the face of war. Her diary expresses this attitude but also the strains on it as the war wore on. Thorp did not only crossed classes; she crossed national borders as well. Her diary's perspective is transnational. She followed the wartime fate of her widely dispersed friends and family. She tracked military news from theaters both far-flung and nearby. And, because of her privileged access to diplomats from Spain, the Netherlands, the US, Persia, and Japan, she tallied wider war news - on peace overtures, the Russian Revolution, and discontent in Germany. At the same time, Thorp remained attuned to local dynamics in Brussels, the First World War's largest occupied city. Alert to both structural constraints and individual stories, she showed how the occupying army sought to exploit Belgium, but also how this rebutted some in the German military. Uniquely, her diary also documents the Armistice and its immediate aftermath, for she kept it up until January 1919. In this volume, Tammy M. Proctor and Sophie De Schaepdrijver provide a biographical introduction on Thorp, an overview of the war in occupied Belgium, and detailed annotations to the diary.


Introduction: Still I feel I did my duty: Diary of an English Governess, 1916-1919
Historical Background: Life in an Occupied City: Brussels
Mary Thorp's Diary
-Part 1: No eleventh hour: September 1916 - February 1917
-Part 2: Qui vivra verra: March - December 1917
-Part 3: We still hear the same eternal cannon: January - October 1918
-Part 4: The Book of Peace!!!: October 1918 - January 1919
Appendix: Thorp Family Tree


Tammy M. Proctor is Professor of History and Department Head at Utah State University. She specializes in the history of gender, youth, and war in modern Europe, and her books include Civilians in a World at War, Scouting for Girls: A Century of Girl Guides and Girls Scouts, and Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War.; Sophie De Schaepdrijver is Associate Professor of History at Penn State University. She specializes in the social and cultural history of the First World War, in particular military occupation. Her latest books are Bastion: Occupied Bruges in the First World War and Gabrielle Petit: The Death and Life of a Female Spy in the First World War. Her documentary Brave Little Belgium aired in 2014.